Jean: This was my first rally. Oh, I’d toyed with the idea before… Friends of mine had done it; even my husband had. I’d fooled around the fringes of the LD crowd; acting as scorer, helped plan and organize but maybe this was just like me driving a motorcycle: it looked fun, sounded like fun, but actually doing it petrified me. Oh well, I could always ride behind Rick, my husband. Passenger isn’t the same as pilot but at least I got to travel on the bike.
Rick: This was my third Feast, Jean’s first as a participant; in fact, this is her very first rally. She had been rally staff at the prior Feasts and every Mason Dixon 20-20 since the beginning. As hosts of the MD2020, we really appreciate the effort and talent that goes into making the Feast happen. The Feast was my second rally three years ago. It is still my second favorite.
As in prior Feasts, the bonus lists are published one week prior to the event. I downloaded the list, made the necessary corrections, and had Street Atlas 8 & 2004 files done. The SA04 file was used in place of the traditional aaa map- it's a good way for me to see the big picture. I'm a visual type so I need to see it. This is my favorite part of the Feast, more so than the riding and the riding doesn’t suck; see where Bryan wants us to go this year. There are several clusters of points: two overlapping sets in the nc/tn mountains along the brp, as well as a very nice group up where I had ridden the previous Feasts. Additionally, there is a ton of points located at the Field of Wood and Suches. I checked those out first, but can't make them work and they have “SUCKER” written all over them, so I look elsewhere. There are two more groups: one along the va/nc border east of I-77, the other east of the motel. Together they're worth a ton o’points on a very doable 430 miles and 9.5 hours plus stops.
A chat with Horkster confirms my suspicions as we independently had developed the same route. Mike Allen and I exchange some IM traffic; he has the same route, too, but is running it the other way, getting the 'optional boni' first. He would later run it the same way, but skip Gastonia for the optionals. So the plan is set, starting with Gastonia, head east to the 'gang of five', then north to the other group of five, grabbing the Guilford CH national park stamp in between and the BRP when we get to Willville.
What really concerns me is there are two other riders I know of with the exact same route-it bodes of seeing the same people all day, considering none of us have the same riding style. Nonetheless, we continue to make our plans. I’ve been telling people since the Palmetto Ramble that Duke Dunsford was due, big time. I figure he can head into the mountains and make it work if anyone can.
One bad thing about the new wings, if there is such a thing as a ‘bad’ thing about them, is there is no real good place to put notes or maps. So, I rig up two binder clips zip-tied to the hydraulic reservoirs; test rode it, not too much flapping around. These would later fascinate Jerry McCumby.
I should mention Jean's longest day in the saddle was a 400 miler back in July. She is concerned about three long days consecutively.
My notes are now complete; we will search for that mythical third national park stamp on the way down- I've accumulated a list of good candidates. Our mission then, was to find that third stamp: at 3,000 points, it could be the difference between placing and an also ran. We also want to check on the quality of a particular short cut that shaves off about 25 miles; it also reeks of something. Horkster has to withdraw at the last minute due to a family medical issue- this is disheartening for both the reason and the fact I’ll miss riding with Horky.
Jean: I was reluctant to ride with Rick in a rally because I was afraid that I would ‘hold him back.’ He always seems to finish well in the rallies he runs and if “we” didn’t finish well, I would be upset to think that I had held him back. He insisted that he didn’t care if we placed. He insists that he enters rallies to: 1) ride safe, 2) have fun, 3) finish the rally- and that finishing well is just gravy. That’s great but I think the man likes his gravy. Of course, how could we lose? I’ve always loved riding behind Rick, especially on a crisp fall day in the mountains.
Jean: We got a few hours south on Thursday night leaving the greater Baltimore-Washington area behind, heading down 81 and staying overnight in Harrisonburg, VA.
Rick: We departed Baltimore and grabbed dinner en route. I was hoping to make Roanoke, but I knew that was a bit of a stretch, so Harrisonburg or south would be just dandy. We stayed at the Motel 6 in H'burg, across from the Waffle House where I had met Howard Chain at several years ago on the way to Jerry Clemmons BBQ. It's a long story, ask Howard sometime. One thing to note, it got cold after dark, dropping into the low 50's; Saturdays forecast low was 40- Jean has no electrics yet. Also, the note cards flap around a bit; actually too much. A solution will have to be found otherwise Jean will have to deal with them and the rallybook. This might be too much to ask for her first rally.
Jean: Friday morning, we had breakfast at the Waffle House across the street. Rick told me how he met Howard Chain for the first time at this very Waffle House. Rick was on his way to the IBA barbeque and was eating breakfast when he saw a guy come in dressed in “full stitch” and the bike was in the parking lot was covered with dead bugs. Rick, not be a shy guy, immediately asked this total stranger “Are you going to Jerry’s?” Howard said “How did you know?” Thus began Rick & Howard’s running joke.
Our day was off to a great beginning; Rick remembers every inch of every road he has driven.
Rick: After a decent night's sleep, we proceeded to the aforementioned Waffle House and discussed the day's plans. We were in no real hurry, so the trip down 81 was made without too many problems, naturally. The extra binder clip zip-tied to the GPS power cord and clipped to the bottom of the cards seems to solved the flapping problem.
Jean: We were searching for a third national park stamp. We felt it would be the key to running a good route. The route we were going to run was a good one, but at least two other people we knew were going to run it and it left us with time at the end that would be wasted as there were no more points to get in the left over time. We tried five different places that could/ should have had stamps but didn’t, at least not at the time that was available to us.
Rick: Our main goal today was to checkout the list for that last park stamp. We also wanted to check out that shortcut between two boni and to visit Willville Bike Camp, just off the BRP. COG rides are sometimes out of here, and I was curious as to how it was. We decided to camp there in the future. The shortcut wasn't exactly where anything thought it was and we overshot it on the Parkway, twice. But it was worth the wait; just don’t look over the edge-k? Discovered Laurel Hill was JEB Stuart's home and a NHLM- visitors' center was closed, of course. Lunch at a Sonic- you got to stop at a Sonic now and then, and on to our list of potential stamps. Stop after stop and no stamps; even the national cemetery visitors’ center in Salisbury and 'Old Salem'. Bummer.
Jean: We did find a fine road: Squirrel Spur Road. Not a productive day, but a fun one. I was actually more confident; we had ridden close to 400 miles and ridden 8 hours. The rally would only be few more hours longer and I was still ready to go. We checked-in and signed the waivers. I had no problems with the waiver except for the mental anguish and emotional distress clauses. I was pretty certain Bryan had specially had those items at the top of his mind when he put the bonuses out there. I am not married to a rallymaster (Mason Dixon 20-20) for nothing. This part of the rally I was familiar with; catching up with old friends, make new, and ogling bikes. We left a wake-up call can set the Screaming Meanie, yes paranoia starts early in the rally, for 4am (ugh!).
Rick: We overlanded our way to Statesville on US-64 and arrived at our motel late afternoon, resigned to the fact, the last park stamp was not to be. We reacquainted ourselves with old friends, met some new ones, and told Bryan exactly what I thought of the 'mental anguish' clause in the waiver. Rallies are nothing but mental anguish, Damn it. The more, the better. Oh Bryan, 'YOU SUCK'. Dinner was at this retro meet-market, across the street- should have gone to the poison Chinese place with the McDaniels. Mike and I compared notes; we called it an early night since we knew tomorrow came early and cold.
4am came real early; it was chilly outside as I went to get my motel 'coffee'. HmmBee was covered in heavy dew; I tried to dry it off with little luck. So I left a dirty t-shirt to absorb it over the saddle while we went over for the riders’ meeting. Bryan reiterated things, reminded us it’s not a race, and if you really wanted a trophy, just go ahead and buy one. We got our rallybook, highlighted the stops/boni we had planned, got into our riding gear [thermal, fleece, etc], mounted up and were put on the clock at 6:01- first stop, the mandatory. The temps dropped to 42 on the way to Gastonia, where we were to get Jerry's business card. He had decided to go to Daytona, so his card was signed by the manager. I wanted to say 'hi' to Jerry. The next leg would be the longest and most boring. So far, we have only seen one bike heading our way once we were clear of the Gastonia stop.
Our planned route will require just about 2 full tanks on the wing; so we didn’t fill up intentionally as we knew there would have to be stops for stuff and for various state gas receipts. We pulled in for our NC gas stop at 85&64, on our way to the first of the ‘gang of five’, Erect. Jean went in for a beverage and to check on a BBQ card/menu, etc- one of the wildcards. I went in for another cup of ‘coffee’ secured the Cheerwine and toy with receipts, leaving the BBQ one as the last of the wildcards. As we are about to leave, Herbie and Dallas roll up. They’re also on their way to Erect. Uh-oh, not good; that means there are now at least three sets of riders heading this way. Herbie comments it looks like this must be the way to go, as he finds us heading this way too- now I am really concerned our route was too obvious. Well, there’s nothing to do now but finish it out. Erect is nothing but a cross road with a fire company and convenience store; Jean reads out the question as we approach the bonus. This is a big advantage as there are now 2 sets of eyes looking for the answer. We see Art Garvin at the store walking towards the fire house. HmmBee flips a u-hey in the parking lot of the fire house, we get the answer; Jean writes it in the book as we head to our next stop. A bonus nabbed without stopping- how cool is that? Off to some church that still haunts Bryan from prior Feasts. At stops where walking is involved, our plan is for me to hop off with the rally book, and Jean to relax while I do the leg work. At the church, the bonus is an eagle I recall. There is no sign of Art as we leave. Next, a flag pole; an R/T catches up to us as we approach town- rider number 5 we’ve seen, plus we already know Mike’s been here; it turns out that was Verne on the R/T and there was no way to recognize him without that Milwaukee iron under him. As we get to the flag pole, we see two more riders- ugggh; that means virtually everyone has gone this way that didn’t head into the mountains. Again, Jean reads out the question, we both see the same answer, no foot down stop and we’re gone. We later find out one of the riders there went “Hey, here comes Rick Miller. There goes Rick Miller, what the Hell?” Up on 421, we see Art heading the other way- he musta missed the shortcut on old-421 to the flag pole.
Now the ‘Festival Magic’ begins. Bryan, either by accident or intentionally- I believe the latter, has carefully selected locations situated in the midst of fall carnivals or festivals. The first for us was a fall festival with the bonus near the southern edge of the blocked off streets- we can see the answer and move on to the next- NASCAR Days in Richard Petty’s hometown. Here, we have to find “Little Richard”, a non-life-sized statue of King Richard with HUGE FEET: I’m talking clown feet. By pure luck we come into town from the side and are within ½ block of Little Richard; I grab a card from a BBQ chicken booth at the festival. Getting back out of town and continuing west turns out to be the tricky part. Jean’s not real confident Bryan will accept the chicken card, so we will back it up with another BBQ place later; right now we’re just trying to get out of town. I comment on what happened to the riders who followed Street Atlas’s directions which took them north through the heart of the festival- we giggle to ourselves as we finally get going north on US-220.
The Plan calls for us taking some surface streets through Greensboro instead of following 220 the long way around town. My e-Map indicated if we stay on the main drag, instead of the planned side streets, we can cut through town lickety split, and we do so hitting only two red lights, arriving at Guilford Court House National Park without too much trouble. I run in for a stamp as Jean stretches a bit. As we get ready to leave, another rider appears- this is getting troubling, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, but ride and hope for the best.
Traffic heading out of Greensboro on 220 is slow and clears out, finally. We get to Stoneville to find the coordinates pointing to Debbie’s Diner; we’re supposed to be looking for a VFW. Ask a passer-by, it’s over one block. No probs, and again we roll through the lot without stopping. Another rider is also sighted here on a Shadow I recall. In my brief history of riding, I have never run across so many riders en route, unless it was a time constrained bonus, like the Dassonvilles (Buttlite) or the Stoners (Buckeye) picnic. Off to Hanging Rock State Park across some lovely roads. Jean tells me through the headsets that she’s having fun’ I am very glad, because I really enjoy this sport. The climb to Hanging Rock is a frustrating 15mph ride, behind cars, RV’s and SUV’s. I park at a spot to avoid the vehicles in front, and run over to the ranger’s station to get the flower guide. The doors are locked: WTF. I notice a small hand written sign “Closed for lunch”: WTF? As I walk away from the building, I see the ranger get into his truck and drive away- WTF? Whip out the cell phone- the rally number is in there from the call-in bonus made back at Guilford. No signal- but I can see the antennas, WTF! There’s a payphone, so out comes the calling card, and I feverishly dial. “Feast in the East, Rider Number and location.” “Rider 2- the Hanging Rock Rangers’ station is closed, what do you want me to do?” “You’re kidding.” “No, what do you want me to do?” “Hang on- Debbie, the rangers’ station at Hanging Rock is closed…” You get the idea. Anyway, I write down the info on the back of my hand (what I frequently call my short term memory- it already has the Richard Petty and eagle info there) and head back to HmmBee. I see Art heading towards the building and wonder if his luck will be better than ours- we later find out he waited another 20 minutes or so for the ranger. He’s a good man.
Back down the mountain we go to get our VA gas on the way to Willville. Another town fair- the Apple Dumpling festival this time has town all messed up. The reserve light has been on a long time and there is no gas in sight. I whip into a BP station just on the west edge of Stuart. The wing drinks in 6.3 gallons, the most ever. I head in for a quick sandwich we can split as Jean gets off and walks around. We have some time to burn as we are not far enough ahead to get any optional boni. I see something called “fried chocolate pie” at the checkout; too tempting, so I grab one. It’s like a Tasty Cake, without the cute little cardboard sleeve; probably just as bad for you. We chow down some hot dogs, share a Diet Pepsi and get ready for the push onto our last few locations.
On our way to BRP, we are rolling along pretty well; an occasional car slows us down, but no biggie. Then a red Ducati flies by us- musta been close to a Higdon three veiner, because we were not poking along- on the double yellow. Glad he wasn’t in the rally, otherwise Bryan would have to had a talk with him.
North on the BRP to Rocky Knob for that stamp and back down to Willville we go. The side trip costs us half an hour, but worth 2,000 points and we have the extra time. At Willville, there are two other riders there. We decide to make a pit stop as the answer is around back of the building. I get the answer onto my short term memory and hit the head. Finishing first, I ask where they might be headed- “Laurel Hill”. “You guys going over the short cut?” “We’re going wherever the GPS tells us to go.” Ahh, yes I love blind faith in technology. Ask Herbie about Blind Faith in your GPS. “Do you ride fast?” “No, not really.” “See you.” And away they went. Jim Bain arrives and we trade jabs; he’s a good egg for a lawyer with excellent fashion tastes. He’s going to Laurel Hill too, but wants a smoke break first. Gives us a nice detour into Elkins if we want it.
Then comes Squirrel Spur Rd- the shortcut. We had done it yesterday, touching down the pegs once on the way off the mountain; today, no touch downs at all and we are 5 minutes faster. What a great road. At Laurel Hill, we again nab the answer without really stopping, double checking the mailbox for fliers (the real bonus); our friends from Willville are there and are still there when we leave. They would finally catch us about 1 mile short of the motel on I-77. See what riding fast gets you?
The trip into Elkins (they’re in the middle of their pumpkin festival, of course) gets us our last bonus and a BBQ card. That settled, we head to finish line stopping for the 6-pack bonus (Corona) and get clocked in right around 4:30- 31 minutes to spare. We go to the room, strip off some extra clothes- it got warm outside and we got thermals on- each of us checking the rallybook over. Jean and I agree upon our final score and head to the tables, cold beer in one hand and a cigar in the other. Donna does the honors as I remind Bryan of his parentage (YOU SUCK) and we total the same score 53,280. Outside people ask; tradition is you don’t really talk about your scores specifically, but then I see it’s written in 6” freaking tall numbers on the envelope our rally shirts are in- well, I guess the cats out of the bag, so sure we’ll talk. Art (51,280) asks, how’d did you get that? Did you get the BRP stamp? No- I celebrate. I ask Jim- same answer, more dancing. Yes there is hope. Duke gets scored right behind us- 54006; I congratulate him. He made the mountains work and earned it.
We finish third, and highest 2-up couple; George Fetsko says we should just have our names engraved on the third place trophy at the start. Mike Allen is second by 6 points. If Duke is one minute later, he’s second by 9 points. How’s that for close?
Thanks Bryan and crew. The Feast is still my favorite ride, regardless of where I/we finish.